Yesterday, I walked into my ten am class and thought perhaps I had done one of those things where I misunderstood the time in the middle of the night and got myself ready for the day at 3am. But here, in my early morning ramble were all my students – half awake and exhausted. They looked like they might be up in the middle of the night. Their eyes were barely cracked open; their limbs hung loosely at their sides; some of them had forgotten to bring paper and pens. I looked at them, sighed, and thought, “It’s mid-term.”

At this point in the fall semester, unless you are one of the lucky who work at a school that has sensibly included was is commonly known as “fall break, everyone in your institutions is weary and tired. We have been pushing hard since late August/early September, and there’s no break in sight until Thanksgiving. We are in the doldrums of mid-term.

It’s usually about this point when attendance starts to flag, when people start coming later and later, and when teachers, myself included, are tempted to give in to everyone’s fatigue and cut classes shorter. I think the most enthusiastic among us pep things up with videos and activities at this point, but of course, doing so would require more energy – and where would we get that?

But in reality, I always find myself catching up at this point. The air is perfect outside; the glow of a lamp is lovely; and if I’m really pulled together, I can make myself get all the grading done and also prepare, hopefully, something fun and valuable to do in class. It’s at this point that “we make it or break it” as teachers and students, so if I am able, I really push myself to help all of us “make it.” The challenge is to figure out how to energize all 16 or 18 of us in a room when we are drained on study and short on sleep. Maybe I should pass out Red Bull. (Just kidding – that stuff scares me.)

I expect all of us reach the doldrums of existence from time to time, and I wonder how we keep going. How do people who have worked the night shift at the Hershey chocolate factory find the energy to keep going to work when most of us are winding down; surely the smell of chocolate gets old after a while? How do those third grade teachers keep at it for 25, 30, 35 years without getting worn down by existence? How does the managing engineer at a firm stay committed and help her employees do so, too? How does a stay-at-home dad push through each day to be enthusiastic about finger-painted pumpkins one more time? What do you do to keep going each day?

For me, the answer is prayer, yoga, and time for things that keep me refreshed. Today, I plan to finish this post, do some great back bends, and then, maybe, read before heading in to work. Maybe my eyes will be fully open by the time I get back to the college.

Whatever it is we do, we need to keep going for ourselves and for those who sit before us sleepy and waiting.

The winner of last week’s giveaway is Barbara S. Congratulations, Barbara.

This week’s giveaway – a little late – consists of four issues of the amazing literary magazine The Southern Review. These are the issues for 2007, and some writers included are Steve Almond, Allison Smythe, Alan Cheuse, Mustapha Marrouchi, Dinty W. Moore, Rick Bass, Mary Oliver, Luci Shaw, James Lee Burke, Lorraine Lopez, Lee Smith, and David Wojahn. The journal is one of the best in the country and contains poetry, fiction, nonfiction, interviews, and book reviews.

If you’re interested in getting a peek at some great writing or would like to get to know some new writers, literary journals are a great way to so do. And now, you have a chance to see one of the best for free. Just post a comment here (and Tweet, Facebook, blog for more chances) and let me know why you’d like to receive this set. A winner will be announced on Friday.

Cover of The Southern Review, Autumn 2007The Southern Review, Autumn 2007.